LACC — Why Sanctuary, Why Now?
By Maureen Flanigan
The Loretto Latin America Caribbean Committee met for a “face-to-face” the first weekend in January with full hearts and a full agenda. The theme of “intention” guided our weekend, pulling us into the urgent work of advocacy for our sisters and brothers threatened by injustice and abuse. We began our three days together with a joy- but reality-filled visit to Araceli Velasquez and her three little sons (dad, Jorge, was still at work) who live in sanctuary at Park Hill United Methodist Church/Temple Micah in Denver. The two co-congregations believe no caring community can remain on the sidelines in these times, so they are providing a safe home for this little family in the basement of their cavernous church while Araceli’s case works its way through the courts, and Jorge and his advocates work to save his Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which is now threatened by the present administration in Washington, D.C.
Fleeing physical violence in El Salvador, Araceli came to the United States and applied for asylum in 2010 but was denied. Here, she met and married Jorge, also from El Salvador. All three of their sons are American citizens. Araceli and Jorge are hard workers who, like good parents everywhere, seek to provide a better life for their children.
The last immigration reform in the United States was in 1986. Since then, millions of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America have crossed the southern border or overstayed their visas because of globalization, wars, economic instability, political oppression and violence in their home countries. At present, there are no legal options for most immigrants. Any immigrant is now subject to immediate deportation regardless of history or family status.
Sanctuary can mean taking persons into a congregation to protect them as with Araceli’s family, but broader than that, sanctuary is about the violence in our schools, congregations, public spaces, cities, streets and everywhere it happens. Whether we are welcoming refugees or working to stop deportations, protecting religious groups who have been targeted and attacked, working to ensure that Black Lives Matter or protecting the rights of LGBTQ people, we are all in this together. Please find out more about “Sanctuary Everywhere” at https://www.afsc.org/story/what-sanctuary-everywhere.